Opening Keynote: Search 3.0, Search 4.0 & Beyond

Strobe lights? Check.
Rockin’ 90s music? Check.
Seated front row and center with Tamar and Susan? Check.
Is Danny Sullivan here? Check.

Ah, it must be time for the opening keynote with our beloved Danny Sullivan. This should be fun. Is there anyone who doesn’t love quirky Sullivan banter?

[Wow, most dramatic start ever. There’s a church bell. And it’s suddenly dark. And Danny is running off the stage. What’s going on? Fire drill?

No, we’re back.]

Danny runs on the stage like a rock star and we all clap. Danny wants to talk about how we got here (a plane!). Last year a group of people from Third Door Media sat on a couch in a hotel in Vegas (this is fascinating) and they contemplated the series they wanted to build. They decided to start off with a number of small boutique shows. They had SMX Advanced. They did things in social, local media, etc. They always wanted to do a big three day SMX show so there was more room to spread out. It would be a good gathering place for search marketers.

Danny says networking is really important. It’s hard to meet people. If you haven’t already been to it, you can access the SMX Connect system. Now Danny is talking about the SMX pins that were in the tote bags and taking us step-by-step through the tote’s goodies. Now we’re singing happy birthday to the president of Third Door Media. No, I’m totally serious.

Okay, housekeeping is over. Huzzah!

Danny came up with these Search 3.0/4.0 terms when he was putting together the agenda. He’ll explain them. The point is that last year search made a huge generational leap and not everyone is getting how important it was and how things have changed. The point numbering system signifies that we’ve seen an upgrade or an evolution.

Search 1.0: On the page
First generation Web search. Location and frequency of search terms on the page influences which pages rank first. Pretty easy to game. The engines went along with that because they were trying to make money. Then came Google.

Search 2.0 Link Analysis
Use "off the page" factors so webmasters can’t manipulate so easily
Links: Democratic nature of the Web

  • aka PageRank, though PR is how important a link is, independent of content
  • Content – Anchor text, the actual words near the links

2nd Gen issues: Google bombing. People began openly manipulating links, thinking about links and that links are the way to save us from poor search quality.

Next Gen is now.

Where do we go from here? Two key advances he expects to happen from talking with search folks have now happened: Search 3.0: Blended results and Search 4.0: Personalized and social search

Invisible Tabs: The answer is not always Web page. Search engines will begin to highlight specialty databases in the right occasion, pushing the right tab behind the scenes. "Invisible tabs" was his term, based on "tab" choices that were popular (images, news, etc)

Search 3.0: Blended Search Arrives
2007 sees invisible tabs/blended search engines across the majors.

Blended Search is now often used a generic term to mean vertical results get blended. His term to wake marketers up is that 3rd gen search has arrived. Forget PageRank, vertical search is critical. Yeah, Danny!

What Is & Why Vertical Search?

Danny says the term came out of the financial industry. If you think of search as being a horizontal line, you search across every page on the Web when you do that. With vertical search, you take a slice of the spectrum. Maybe you just want news or images.

Google Universal Search May 2007

Automatically queries books, images, news, video, local + Web. Blogs and shopping were added December 2007. Relevancy of each vertical results measured against others, Google says. They take away old search results and add a video or a news story instead.

[Danny says Diet Coke is the unofficial sponsor of SMX. Heh.]

Who ever thought you could do a search on Google and you’d get a YouTube video? Facebook results are showing up high in the SERPs. If you have a client who has relevant images, these are opportunities to get your pages seen.

Ask3D & Morph came out in June 2007. The 3rd pane was filled with images, encyclopedia content, news, video, etc.

Microsoft Live: Sept 2007
Pushing Live Scores
Health, shopping, celebrities
More of this is going to come along

Yahoo Oct 2007
Yahoo Shortcuts. Gives you a specialized unit at the top of the page. Results from their listing search engine,, are also being featured. If you have an event, it’s much more important to be listed in Upcoming now. Shopping results are coming up. Literally today they just came out with Yahoo Search Monkey (did he really just say monkey?), which will let publishers blend information of their own into their listings.

Web search is not going away, but it’s the back up. Verticals are new and more prominent doorways into top results. Exact metaphors and presentations are still being developed.

Key takeaway: Vertical has less competition and itself tends to be more "old school" Search 1.0 ranking factors.

Search 4.0: Personalized Search
You’re reshaping the results based on what you do in aggregate. What you personally do, what others you now do, what people in aggregate do. Among the majors, Google is alone in doing this, so we’re not fully at Search 4.0 yet.

Google Personalized Search. Results are rendered based on what’s deemed to be your personal preferences. Pages move up, down, in or out of Top 10. It’s still very subtle. Listings get moved around a little bit. It’s not a case where you once bought something on Amazon and now Amazon thinks you always want to go camping. It’s deliberately not like that. From a search marketing perspective, it really changed the market.

Personalized factors: iGoogle personalized home page, Google bookmarks, search history (clicks), Web history (visits).

Social Search
Eurekster experimented with friend clicks reshaping results in 2004.
Yahoo My Web promised to let us tag and use a network to reshape results.

Social Search Reality: Neither has really been successful…yet. There’s potential. What others are searching on. Monitor clicks in a more "trusted" environment. Reshape results based on what your friends seem to like. But who are you friends?

Do you have to filter to "true" friends?
Do you then still need to consider what you’ll share?
Do Facebook or others instead of work on aggregate level?

What To Do?

Google: Use their buttons & create great content. If you want to succeed in the long term you have to have something that’s compelling.
Other engines: Watch and see. Get to know some of the social sites, from social news to networking.
"I don’t wanna be a social media marketer. Damn kids. It’s not SEO". Social media is not a fad. It’s not going away. You better understand it, that’s why everyone is covering it. Linking started out the same way social media has. It was an independent movement that became crucial.


  • Social media builds links and visibility
  • Its lets search marketers leverage an authority site. Useful for reputation purposes or to get out faster than a "regular" site can.
  • Delicious may soon directly impact results
  • Google Reader could do same
  • Prepares you for more to come

Humans Editors: Search 5.0?
Human refinement!

  • sometimes feels cluttered but nice to see the attempts
  • Search Wikia remains to be seen.

Danny looks at how all the search engines covered the recent fires in Southern California. He seems to like the way Mahalo handled it. [grumble grumble] Danny says the downside to Mahalo is that it’s hard for human editors to keep up and it can be overwhelming. There’s another engine called Hakia that does this kind of categorization but doesn’t use human beings.

If Danny had another keynote he’d like to talk about:

Microhoo: Danny says Microsoft wants to buy Yahoo for a shitload of money (what? That’s what he said!). Yahoo said they appreciate it but they’re seeing someone else right now. Heh. It looks like there’s going to be proxy fight. No one knows what will happen or what each company should do. The "scale" arguments haven’t convinced him, either has the "employee" argument hasn’t either. Traffic remains the most compelling.

Danny likes the idea of all three engines fighting it out. He doesn’t want to see Yahoo get swallowed up. I tend to agree.

Video Cometh: In SES Chicago 2006 he talked about how video killed the search star. Search is boring and it’s hard work. You make pennies off the dollar.
But pushing video ads isn’t necessarily search. AdSense is not search, nor is it with video. Putting ads on video isn’t getting you traffic.

Danny likes the new Video for AdWords beta because it does look to be search related. And perhaps it will bring new money into paid search campaigns, giving them an easier-to-understand coolness factor.

Recession Worries: Search thrived during the last downturn. Buying may dip but it’s not going to stop. Search may be more essential than other types of ads.

Wish list: Google and others break out actual search from other types of ads.

Search Marketing Reputation Issues: Danny points out some quotes from mainstream media about SEO and how it supposedly isn’t good for small business. Clearly, that’s not true. He also mentions the remarks that Shoemoney made about how he despised the SEO label. Don’t judge the industry by the cold-callers.

Can Reputation Improve?


In past, we’ve been called as bad or worse. Each time someone see reputation issues as a "crisis" or problem that must be solved. Yet, search engine optimization continues to grow and be in demand. It sucks, it isn’t fair, but maybe some standards can ease the emotional burden.

The biggest issue isn’t white hate/black hat, but the ripoff artists that both hat colors dislike. What do we need? A centralized complaints area; agree to be listed, good or bad, with right to respond? Better PR for search engine optimization43, more case studies on how it helps.

Lisa Barone is a writer, content marketer & VP of strategy at Overit Media. She's also a very active Twitterer, much to the dismay of the rest of the world.

See Lisa's author page for links to connect on social media.

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